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Breakers Hotel Complex
Breakers CIMG0089.JPG
Location 1 South County Road
Palm Beach, Florida
Area 105 acres (42 ha)
Built 1925
Architect Schultze & Weaver
Architectural style Renaissance Revival, Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Revivals, Shingle Style
NRHP reference No. 73000598
Added to NRHP August 14, 1973

The Breakers Palm Beach is a historic, Renaissance Revival style luxury hotel with 538 rooms. It is located at 1 South County Road in Palm Beach, Florida, United States.

Early history

First known as The Palm Beach Inn, the original hotel was opened on January 16, 1896, by business tycoon Henry Flagler to accommodate travelers on his Florida East Coast Railway. It occupied the beachfront portion of the grounds of the Royal Poinciana Hotel, which Flagler had opened in 1894 beside Lake Worth Lagoon, facing the inland waterway. Guests began requesting rooms "over by the breakers", so Flagler renamed it The Breakers Hotel in 1901.

The original wooden hotel burned on June 9, 1903, after which it was rebuilt, opening on February 1, 1904. Rooms started at $4 per night, including three meals a day (in 2018, rooms started at $1,050 per night). Since Flagler forbade motorized vehicles on the property, patrons were delivered between the two hotels in wheeled chairs powered by employees. The grounds featured a nine-hole golf course.

Pre-Negro leagues, Winter League baseball team

In the winter of 1915/1916, the Breakers Hotel hired the services of Cyclone Joe Williams and many fellow team members of the Lincoln Giants pre-Negro leagues baseball team to take on another pre-Negro leagues baseball team made up of Indianapolis ABCs players hosted by the Royal Poinciana Hotel. The games hosted Negro league baseball stars of the day, including Ben Taylor, C.I. Taylor, Candy Jim Taylor, John Donaldson, Ashby Dunbar, Jim Jeffries, Jimmie Lyons, Bill Francis, Blainey Hall, Dick Wallace, Louis Santop, and Spot Poles. One newspaper column claimed that "Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, and hundreds of others, who never see a ball game outside of Palm Beach... (are) rooting hard for their favorite team.

1925 fire and subsequent years

Twelve years after Flagler's death, The Breakers Hotel burned down again, on March 18, 1925; the fire was started by an electric curling iron that had been left on. The architectural firm hired by the Flagler heirs, Schultze and Weaver, modeled the 550-room replacement building after the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy. The firm worked with New York-based Turner Construction Company and a well-known local Palm Beach contractor, Eugene Hammond, who built the first theater in West Palm Beach and worked on the Palm Beach estate built for Rodman Wanamaker by Addison Mizner (which would become a Kennedy winter retreat in 1933).

The contractors decided to abandon the wooden construction for fireproof concrete. Built by 1,200 construction workers, the hotel reopened on December 29, 1926, to considerable acclaim. The lobby ceiling was painted by Alexander Bonanno, a classically trained New York City artist who taught at Cooper Union. This hotel influenced the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba.

The Breakers Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The 105-acre (42 ha) listed area included 15 contributing buildings and one other contributing object.

On April 18, 2012, the AIA's Florida Chapter ranked the hotel seventh on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places. Today, the hotel and grounds occupy 140 acres (57 hectares) beside the Atlantic Ocean.

Awards

The Breakers is currently a AAA five diamond rated resort and has maintained this rating since 1996.

  • Florida, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, 2004, pg. 119


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